Budget watchdog calls out Liberals for lack of details on infrastructure funds

Parliament’s budget watchdog is calling on the Trudeau Liberals to deliver a detailed plan for how it plans to dole out billions in infrastructure dollars to avoid further delays in spending.

Parliamentary budget officer Jean-Denis Frechette says the Liberals don’t yet have a plan for how the federal government will spend $186.7 billion in infrastructure money over the next 12 years.

budget watchdog, infrastructure, Investing in Canada, Liberals
A map showing some of the many hundreds of projects approved under the government’s $180 billion Investing in Canada plan, which has been criticized by the Parliamentary budget watchdog, Jean-Denis Frechette. Image via Infrastructure Canada.

Government officials have vowed to provide more information beyond what was in last month’s budget that updated spending figures on the program, but they delivered what Frechette calls an incomplete account of $91.1 billion in existing spending.

Frechette’s office says in a report released today that the Liberals won’t spend about one-quarter of planned infrastructure spending between 2016 and 2019, with the cash being shifted to future years.

Infrastructure funding is regularly subject to delays because dollars don’t flow to projects until cities and provinces submit expense receipts, which often creates a lag between when work takes place and when federal money is spent.

Frechette says parliamentarians should seek government plans to avoid further delays, particularly as the Liberals sign funding deals with provinces and territories for $33 billion in upcoming infrastructure spending.

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi signed an $11.8 billion agreement with Ontario on Wednesday and is scheduled to sign a funding deal with New Brunswick later today as part of a push to finish agreements with all provinces and territories by the end of the month.

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